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Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."

"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."

Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Looking Back at the Top Events from 2013-'14

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the calendar begins to shift towards the start of the 2014-'15 athletic season, wanted to take a look back at a tremendous campaign for Penn State Athletics.

Fueled by national championships from women's volleyball, wrestling and fencing, Penn State accumulated a record point total in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup in 2013-'14.

Penn State's three NCAA Championships are its most since winning three in 1999-2000. Penn State student-athletes, who have an 88 percent graduation rate, won a school record-tying and conference-best eight Big Ten titles in 2013-'14 and 16 over the past two years, easily topping second place Michigan (9) in combined titles the last two years.

Take a look back at some of the top events from a stellar Penn State sports season.

Men's Hockey: Oct. 11, 2013 - Penn State 4, Army 1 (First Game in Pegula)

HKY_Pegula_First Game.jpgIt was a night fans in Hockey Valley had been dreaming of for years. The Nittany Lion men's hockey team christened the state-of-the-art Pegula Ice Arena with a dominant performance before a boisterous sold out crowd on opening night for the 2013-'14 season.

At 8:14 p.m., the puck dropped in the first game inside Penn State's sparkling new home for hockey.

Nate Jenson owns the honor of tallying the first goal for the Nittany Lions in Pegula. He took a feed from Taylor Holstrom early in the first period and beat Army goalie Rob Tadazak to the high corner, glove side. Just as Jensen scored, the crowd of 6,370 exploded and Zombie Nation blared through the speakers.

An early third-period two-on-one shorthanded goal from Curtis Loik and a breakaway goal from David Goodwin would spark the same reaction. Leading 3-1, Eric Scheid notched a last-second empty net goal to seal the first win in their inaugural game in Pegula.

Hockey Valley could not have any been prouder of its team following the 4-1 victory, and the student section made that very clear. The Roar Zone was full song from the moment it walked into the building 90 minutes before faceoff.

The Nittany Lions went on to win four games inside Pegula Ice Arena during their first Big Ten season. The list of victories included a thrilling 4-0 win over Michigan and a 4-2 triumph over Ohio State during conference play.

Football: Oct. 12, 2013 - Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (Beaver Stadium)

FB_Robinson Michigan.jpegDown by 34-27 at its own 20-yard line with 50 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Penn State found itself in a difficult situation in sold out Beaver Stadium against rival Michigan.

The stakes were simple. Drive down the field and score a touchdown or the game was over.

True freshman and 18-year old signal-caller Christian Hackenberg jogged onto the field to lead the offense during the 2-minute drill with the game on the line.

On first down at the 20, Hackenberg connected with Robinson, who dragged his toe just inside the sideline paint in front of the Penn State bench for a 14-yard gain.

One play later, it was Brandon Felder's turn.

Hackenberg's toss to Felder in front of the Michigan bench covered 29 yards and set up another first down at the Michigan 37-yard line.

Two plays later, Robinson returned to the spotlight with the play of the game.

Hackenberg fielded Ty Howle's snap and looked to Robinson, who was lined up wide on the left side of the formation. Robinson stuttered in the first 10 yards of his route, attempting to freeze the Michigan defensive back. As he regained full speed, Hackenberg's pass was in the air.

Robinson skied over the Michigan defender and plucked the ball at the highest point in his jump before falling to a rest at the 1-yard line.

Hackenberg finished the drive off with a plunge into the end zone, capping off a five-play, 80-yard game-tying touchdown drive that covered just 23 seconds on the clock.

The teams exchanged blows in the overtime frames before Bill Belton became the hero. Belton trotted into the north end zone of Beaver Stadium for a game-winning touchdown in the fourth OT, capping off an epic comeback and a victory that will live in Penn State history for decades.

Women's Volleyball: Dec. 21, 2013 - Penn State 3, Wisconsin 1 (Championship Match)

WVB_Title.jpegPenn State's road to the national semifinals in Seattle was not an easy one in 2013. After knocking off LIU Brooklyn and Utah inside Rec Hall to open the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions traveled to Kentucky for the regional round of the 64-team tournament.

Penn State rallied from 1-0 down to defeat Michigan State in the regional semifinals, which set up a showdown against seventh-seeded Stanford for a trip to the national semifinals.

The Lions and Cardinal battled to a fifth set in what evolved into an epic clash among two of volleyball's heavyweights. Penn State trailed Stanford 9-6 in the fifth before head coach Russ Rose used a timeout. Out of the break, the Lions were not going to be denied.

Penn State scored the next six points in the decisive set on the way to punching a ticket to the national semifinals in Seattle.

Playing in the NCAA semis for the 11th time in program history, Penn State rolled over Washington (3-0), which was playing just four miles from its campus, with a truly dominant performance.

The national title match, the Lions' ninth all-time appearance, was next. Facing off against Wisconsin in the first all Big Ten national final, Penn State jumped out to a hard-fought 2-0 lead before the Badgers rallied to make it 2-1.

Wisconsin took a 23-20 lead in the fourth and was just two points from forcing a fifth set, but the Lions were not done. A service error from the Badgers made it 23-21. With ice water in her veins, ESPY nominee Micha Hancock stepped to the service line. The junior delivered four potent jump serves, two of which dropped for aces, before senior Deja McClendon's kill clinched the program's sixth national title and fifth in the last seven years.

In six NCAA Tournament matches this season, the Nittany Lions dropped just four total sets.

Men's Basketball: Jan. 29, 2014 - Penn State 71, Ohio State 70 (Value City Arena)

MBB_Newbill_Craft copy.jpgThe Nittany Lion basketball team trailed Ohio State, 59-48, with 7:58 to play in Columbus after Buckeyes capped off a 10-2 scoring run.

Penn State never panicked, largely thanks to a dominant performance from D.J. Newbill down the stretch.

A pair of buckets from Jordan Dickerson and two free throws from Newbill set the score at 62-59, Buckeyes, with 2:20 to play.

Newbill then fielded a long pass moving right to left across the floor from Frazier before burying a corner three, which tied the game at 62-62 with 1:08 to go. Ohio State scored the next three points to make it 65-62.

Newbill answered in the form of a second clutch 3-pointer with 11.0 seconds to play.

After Ohio State's final possession in regulation came up empty, the game headed into overtime.

The Buckeyes took a 70-67 lead on a pair of Lenzelle Smith Jr. free throws in the extra frame, but Newbill was not done.

The Philly product snaked through the Ohio State defense for a lay-in with 45 seconds to play, pulling the Lions to within one (70-69). The Buckeyes turned the ball over on the next possession, setting up an inbounds play with 13.2 seconds.

Tim Frazier inbounded to Jordan Dickerson, who handed the ball off to D.J. Newbill in front of the scorer's table. Down one with 11 seconds to play in overtime as he crossed halfcourt, Newbill raced to the right side of the floor.

The Philly native wanted the ball in his dominant hand. With one of the Big Ten's top defenders an arm's length away, Newbill began his move with 5.4 seconds on the clock.

After one power dribble to his right, he sent the ball to his left hand under Aaron Craft's extended right arm. Newbill took one more power dribble with his left hand before elevating at the right elbow with 3.5 seconds on the clock.

The ball never touched the rim as it sailed through the cylinder to give the Lions a 71-70 victory. Penn State's win at Ohio State was its first since 2001.

Women's Basketball: March 1, 2014 - Penn State 77, Michigan 62 (Bryce Jordan Center)

WBB_Big Ten.jpegTo put it simply, Senior Day couldn't have gone any better for Penn State's four seniors in 2014.

Maggie Lucas, Talia East, Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards all were double figure scorers on a day where they were honored with friends and family in attendance as the team claimed its third consecutive Big Ten title with a 77-62 over Michigan.

Edwards led the Lady Lions with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field while Lucas, East and Taylor added 17, 16 and 11 points respectively.

Penn State had control of the game from start to finish as they shot 54 percent from the field, missed just one free throw on 19 attempts and collected seven blocks and 11 steals.

The group of seniors combined for 65 of the team's 77 points; epitomizing their leadership during their time at Penn State in their last regular season home game.

That was expected from a group of four leaders who ensured a team of seven freshmen didn't miss a beat coming off of two-straight conference titles heading into the season.

Edwards, Lucas and East left Penn State as one of the winningest classes ever. They finished with 101 wins, good for second in program history. Taylor was at Penn State for 75 of the 101 wins after transferring from Maryland.

With all of the championships, accolades and wins, it was a perfect way for Lucas, East and Taylor to complete their Penn State careers.

Penn State's third-straight Big Ten title put the Lady Lions in elite company with Iowa and Ohio State as the only programs in the conference to win three or more consecutive conference crowns. The title also fueled the Lady Lions' second run to the Sweet 16 in past three years.

Wrestling: March 22, 2013 - Nittany Lions Clinch Fourth-Straight NCAA Title

WR_Title.jpegPenn State's reign over the college wrestling world continued in March when the Nittany Lions captured their unprecedented fourth-straight NCAA team title in Oklahoma City.

Fueled by NCAA individual crowns from seniors Ed Ruth at 184 pounds and David Taylor at 165 pounds, the Lions celebrated on the sport's grandest stage inside Chesapeake Energy Arena as the 2014 national champions.

By no means was the fourth title an easy one for the Nittany Lions, who edged Minnesota by 5.5 points in the final team standings. Following a victory from Ruth at 184 pounds, the Lions pulled ahead of the Gophers by 1.5 points after two championship bouts.

Minnesota suffered setbacks in its two national title bouts, with the second coming in the ninth match of the evening. As the 157-pound bout ticked to zero on the clock, the white-clad Penn State fans rose to their feet to celebrate the program's fifth national championship.

But the work was not quite done for the Nittany Lions, as Taylor was on deck in the final championship match of night against Oklahoma State's Chris Perry.

You could not have scripted a better way for Taylor's career to end in a Penn State singlet than the way it did on Saturday night. The epitome of a team player, Taylor's imprint on the program goes far beyond his stellar accolades. He didn't miss a match at the national tournament because he wanted to support his fellow teammates. On Saturday morning, he did not need to be at the arena, but he was the first to greet fellow senior James English as he came off the mat after his critical win in the seventh-place match at 149 pounds.

Thanks to another dominant performance, Taylor finished off his collegiate career with a victory in the final match of the national tournament, an individual national title and a team title. 

Taylor and Ruth played a paramount role in Penn State's fourth-straight title, but the Nittany Lions will remain atop the NCAA wrestling mountain because of a hard-fought team effort in the 2014 NCAA Championships.

Fencing: March 23, 2014 - Nittany Lions Clinch 13th NCAA Title

FEN_Title.jpegNo program in Penn State's illustrious sports history has won more national titles than the fencing team. Under the direction of interim head coach Wes Glon, Penn State mounted a furious charge on the final day of the NCAA Championships in Columbus to clinch its 13th national championship.

As a team, Penn State finished the competition with 180 bout victories, toppling Princeton in second-place (159 victories), and St. John's in third (156 victories).

Individually, sophomore Kaito Streets claimed the 2014 men's saber NCAA title. Streets became the 13th individual champion for the Nittany Lions in program history.

In the team race, the Nittany Lions were neck and neck with Princeton throughout much of the competition. The Lions began pulling away from the Tigers on day three of the competition. Penn State clinched the program's third title in the past six seasons on day four.

Streets held the number one spot in the men's saber event heading into the final competition. He knocked off Ferenc Valkai from St. John's to become an individual champion.

Glon has been with the Nittany Lions for 29 seasons, and he has seen all 13 national titles. But the 2014 crown marked his first as the leader of the program.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year David Taylor

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been a big week for former Nittany Lion wrestling great and two-time NCAA champion David Taylor. The four-time All-American was named Jesse Owens Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year on Monday. Taylor then earned an ESPY nomination for Best Male College Athlete on Wednesday. caught up with Taylor to talk about his remarkable achievements and the next steps for his career.

Vote for Taylor in the ESPY Awards here:

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day VI - New Jersey & New York

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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day V Roundup | VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day IV Roundup

New Jersey Photo Gallery | New York Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration

NEW YORK - Leg two of the Coaches Caravan wrapped up on Thursday with a lunch stop in Northern New Jersey and an evening reception in New York City.

New Jersey and New York City are two pivotal areas for Penn State teams when it comes to recruiting.  Additionally, the Nittany Lion fan bases in New Jersey and the New York Metro area are among the largest outside of Pennsylvania.  Take a look through the final day of week two on the Coaches Caravan, which featured James Franklin, Cael Sanderson and Erica Walsh.

Stop No. 11 - Northern New Jersey (Hanover Marriott)

New Jersey is home to more than 27,000 Penn State alums, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  More than 225 loyal supporters visited the Hanover Marriott in Northern New Jersey on Thursday for the Caravan's lunch in the Garden State.

In addition to being home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters, New Jersey is a critical recruiting area for the vast majority of Penn State teams.  Women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh opened her remarks on Thursday with a story about All-American Maya Hayes, who recently graduated from the program as one of its all-time best.  Hayes is from West Orange, N.J.

"We've had tremendous success in this area," Walsh said.  "I'm thrilled to be back.  And I've spent a lot of time recruiting in this area."

nj_1.jpgThe same is true for football program.  There are currently 16 student-athletes on the football roster from New Jersey, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  Penn State has had a long line of storied success in attracting the top talent from New Jersey, and Coach Franklin wants that tradition to continue.

Franklin informed the media during the pre-event press conference that the time and resources put into recruiting New Jersey make it as if it is part of Pennsylvania.  Four members of the 2014 recruiting class are from New Jersey.

As Rutgers transitions into the Big Ten this summer, New Jersey will carry even more importance for Penn State Athletics.  The fans and alums in the local area will now have the opportunity to watch Penn State teams compete in the state on an annual basis.

"This place is very special, and it means a lot to our program," Sanderson said.

"We are really excited about the Big Ten expanding east," Walsh said.

A special group of Nittany Lion football lettermen paid a visit to the New Jersey Caravan stop on Thursday.  Members of the 1959 Liberty Bowl team had a 55th reunion table.  Head coach Rip Engle led the Nittany Lions to victory against Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide, 7-0 on Dec. 19, 1959, marking Penn State's first Liberty Bowl victory.


Stop No. 12 - New York City (Marriott New York Downtown)

The Coaches Caravan paid its annual visit to the Big Apple on Thursday evening to wrap up leg two.  The Caravan bus drove through the Holland Tunnel into the southern tip of Manhattan shortly before 3 p.m.  Situated just a block from One World Trade Center, head coach James Franklin and members of the Caravan staff took a walk around the new Freedom Tower structure towering over the New York City skyline.

The final event of the week took place before 300 enthusiastic, loud Penn State fans inside the Marriott New York Downtown.  The evening marked the end of Walsh's two-week stint on the Caravan.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer was superb each time she spoke to the crowd.  Her visualization story of a recruiting visit touched everyone in the room, and her delivery was superb.

"It's just been a thrill to be a part of this, and I am honored to be here with two of the greatest coaches that you will find," Walsh said.

After receiving another standing ovation on Thursday, a member of the crowd yelled to the stage as she sat down.

"New York loves you, Erica!"

Sanderson also finished his stint on the Caravan bus with another comical speech in New York.  While he is a terrific complement to Walsh and Franklin, Sanderson has the capability to send a large group erupting into laughter every time he brings up a new topic.  Nonetheless, his respect and appreciation of the fan base and its support speaks volumes about his enthusiasm of being a part of the Penn State family.

"You see that passion these two have, and it is unbelievable," Sanderson said.

"It has been great spending time with these two coaches," Franklin said.

The Q&A portion of the night prompted a discussion with Sanderson about the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will take place in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden.  The Nittany Lions and the loyal fan base will have that date circled, and Sanderson is looking forward to the opportunity to wrestle in front of so many Penn State alums.

nyc_2.jpgA large portion of Coach Franklin's Caravan speech stresses the importance of academic success for the football program.  He wants to see the team achieve its highest grade point average in history, in addition to its highest graduation rate.  Thursday night's location was a living example of what a Penn State degree can do for a student-athlete.  Nearly 10 football letterwinners currently work just a few blocks from the Marriott Downtown on Wall Street.  As Franklin says, Penn State provides a powerful degree for life beyond football or any sport.

With two weeks down, the Coaches Caravan resumes on Tuesday with a lunch stop in Williamsport on the campus of Penn College of Technology.  Additionally the Caravan will pay a visit to Wilkes-Barre for an evening event on Tuesday, lunch in East Stroudsburg and an evening in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and an evening event in Erie on Thursday.

Thank you to the fans for making the first two weeks of the Coaches Caravan a resounding success.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles

Total - 1,369 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day V - Philadelphia & Scranton

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VIDEO: Coaches Caravan Day IV Roundup

Philadelphia Photo Gallery | Scranton Photo GalleryCoaches Caravan Registration

PECKVILLE, Pa. -  The second day of leg two on the road with the Penn State Coaches Caravan featured a trip through downtown Philadelphia and a packed house in Scranton on Wednesday.

Philly natives James Franklin, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh highlighted Wednesday's lunch stop.  Additionally, four-time defending NCAA wrestling champion head coach Cael Sanderson joined the cast of coaches for Wednesday's event.  Take a look at some highlights.

Stop No. 9 - Philadelphia (The Rittenhouse Hotel)

Wednesday's lunch took place in the heart of downtown Philadelphia at The Rittenhouse Hotel.  More than 250 fans filled the ballroom to greet the four coaches during an excellent lunch event.  Franklin, Morett and Walsh had a little extra bounce in their step after the Philly natives took a drive down Broad Street en route to Center City for the lunch.

Wednesday's crowd was superb, and the group gave all four coaches a standing ovation after they spoke.  Like the gathering in King of Prussia on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia supporters of Penn State Athletics are a diehard group of fans.

Walsh has been a tough act to follow during her two weeks on the Caravan.  Her campus tour speech is filled with details and beaming with pride.  Whether it was Bob Warming, Morett or Sanderson, every coach who has stepped to the podium following Walsh has remarked about her tremendous description of the Penn State campus.  Sanderson had his first crack at following the leader of Penn State women's soccer for the first time on Wednesday.

"That's tough to follow.  I just want to have lunch," Sanderson joked.

caravan_philly_1.jpgFresh off the program's fourth-straight NCAA title, Sanderson has an endless supply of things to talk about.  But that's not his style.  Sanderson deflects the attention off of himself to talk about the positive energy surrounding the football program and how the football program serves as the engine for the health of the athletic department.

"They have the vision, the passion and the pride.  We are in very good hands," Sanderson said of Franklin and the football staff.

He went on to urge the crowd to buy football season tickets now.

"Get your tickets now because when they get going, you're not going to be able to get them in a few years," Sanderson said.

Franklin talks about the state of pride in Penn State each time he addresses a caravan crowd.  That could not be more apparent during the first nine stops during the past couple weeks.  The fan base is excited for what's ahead.  And the fellow coaches in the department are just as excited.

"There are so many things to be excited about," Morett said.

Morett finished off her stint on the Coaches Caravan in Philly.  She will now hit the recruiting trail.  From Philly, the Fullington bus rolled north towards Scranton.

Stop No. 10 - Scranton (Fiorelli Catering)

Day two of the second week wrapped up in front of the Caravan's largest crowd in Peckville, Pa. (Outside of Scranton).  Nearly 900 Penn State fans crammed into the ballroom at Fiorelli Catering to welcome a great group from the Penn State Athletics family during the local alumni chapter's 36th annual event.  The list of attendees included Northeast Pennsylvania products and current Nittany Lions Eugene Lewis, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten and Brian Tomasetti and the voice of the Nittany Lions, Steve Jones.

Prior to dinner, Coach Franklin met a throng of fans that lined up more than 90 minutes prior to when the program began at 7:30 p.m.  Fan after fan walked up to Franklin for an opportunity to shake hands and take photos for nearly an hour.  Some offered advice.  Some told stories. Some even offered gifts.

Walsh and Sanderson both spoke prior to Franklin, energizing the room packed with Nittany Lion supporters.  But it was Franklin who got the room buzzing during an informal auction for game tickets to select Nittany Lion games in the fall and season tickets.  Franklin triggered a bidding war with the microphone that led to two fans battling up to $8,000 for a pair of season tickets.  When the final bid was announced as the winner, the room erupted with approval and rose to its feet.

scranton_1.jpg"In this room, I feel like I'm already in Beaver Stadium.  You can't move for all of the people," Sanderson said when describing the atmosphere.

Franklin's remarks were passionate and filled with energy as he closed out the evening's lineup of speakers.  While highlighting his vision for the football program, Franklin reminded the Scranton crowd of what is important in the quest to become the top program.

"Success is about doing all of the little things better than everybody else in the country," Franklin said.

Throughout all three speeches, the crowd of nearly 900 was glued to the speaker at the podium.  Walsh, Sanderson and Franklin all deserve a great deal of credit for their delivery on Wednesday night.

Simply put, the Scranton crowd was again tremendous for the third-straight year during the Caravan.

Before boarding the bus bound for the next stop in New Jersey, the Coaches Caravan crew paid a visit to 2012 Nittany Lion alum Eric Shrive's new restaurant - The Vault Tap Room & Restaurant - located in West Scranton.

Thursday's events will take place in Northern New Jersey and New York City before the Caravan heads back to State College.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Total - 1,102 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day IV - King of Prussia

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King of Prussia Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Leg two of the 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday evening with a stop outside of Philadelphia.

The eighth stop of the 17-event caravan featured James Franklin, four-time defending NCAA national champion wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh.  More than 700 Penn State enthusiasts greeted the coaches inside the event room at Valley Forge Casino Resort.  Take a look at some highlights from Tuesday's event.

Stop No. 8 - King of Prussia (Valley Forge Casino Resort)

More than 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and three of the four coaches on stage treated Tuesday night's Coaches Caravan event as a homecoming.  Hailing from Montgomery County, Walsh was just minutes where she grew up in Huntingdon Valley.

"I tried to get the whole caravan moved to the Phillies game (tonight)," Walsh joked.

Morett, who is on the Caravan for the Philly swing, is a proud product of Delaware County.  Like Walsh, she was thrilled to be in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night.

"I'm just a Philly girl coming back home," Morett said.

Morett spent a portion of her speech giving Walsh a hard time for not attending Penn State.  Walsh has spent the past two weeks on the Coaches Caravan delivering a superb visualization speech of the University Park campus.  Morett's response?

"After listening to your speech, how did you not go to Penn State?"

As a 27-year veteran as a head coach of the Nittany Lion field hockey program and Penn State alum, Morett is among the most passionate individuals you will find when it comes to her love for the University.  She genuinely appreciates the support fans and alums give to the school that means so much to her, and it's always evident when she speaks in front of a crowd.

The third Philly product in King of Prussia on Tuesday evening was the headliner of the event.  Franklin grew up in Langhorne, Pa., which is roughly 30 miles from the site of the stop.  As he has said from day one, Franklin is a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions, and he could not have been happier to be close to home.

"It's unbelievable to be here tonight," Franklin said.  "...The sense of pride in Penn State is unbelievable."

kop_1.jpg Joining the trio of Philly natives this week on the Caravan is the leader of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling program.  Always entertaining, Sanderson has a knack for keeping the crowd light every time he speaks in front of a group.  He was clad in a "Dominate The State" T-shirt under his suit jacket to show his support of Coach Franklin.

Sanderson's introduction included a small snippet of his unmatched wrestling and coaching career.  After receiving a standing ovation following the introduction, Sanderson stepped to the microphone and noted that the intro had left off his fourth-grade all-star baseball achievement.  The room erupted in laughter.

Sanderson likes to have fun with the crowd, but when it comes to his appreciation for the position he holds, his feelings are clear.

"It's an awesome opportunity to be a part of Penn State, and it's because of you guys," Sanderson said.

The Coaches Caravan travels downtown Philadelphia for a lunch stop on Wednesday before moving north to Scranton for a dinner event.


Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles

Total - 857 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Davis Eager to Get Back Into the Cage as Fight Approaches

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After 266 days, excited is probably too tame of a word to describe how Phil Davis will be feeling on Saturday.

When he steps inside the octagon opposite of Anthony Johnson on Saturday night, that is how long it will have been since the former Penn State wrestling national champion and current UFC light heavyweight contender will have appeared in a fight.

Despite not having been in the cage since a tightly contested victory over Lyoto Machida on Aug. 3, 2013, Davis is feeling anything but rusty. In fact, the no. 4 ranked light heavyweight apologized to fans expecting a close match.

"It's going to be a good fight but it's not going to be competitive," Davis said. "I'm going to win."

Entering Saturday's night's match with a 12-1 career record that dates back to 2009, the near nine-month wait isn't the first time Davis has had a long layoff between fights, with his longest having been just over 10 months (307 days) between March 26, 2011 and Jan. 28. 2012.

It's not as if Davis has simply been enjoying the down time since defeating Machida. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound fighter has been training non-stop in the gym, even making a visit to Penn State on Nov. 7 where he worked out with the team and even grappled with now two-time national champion David Taylor.

Going up against an opponent in Johnson who has most recently been competing in the World Series of Fighting since his last UFC appearance in 2012, Davis dismissed the notion that the time away from the cage would affect either fighter.

"(The layoff) doesn't really matter because I stay pretty busy in the gym," Davis said. "I've been able to focus on getting better with everything."

In a sport that involves the combination of both striking and wrestling techniques, Davis's background as a four time All-American wrestler with 116 career college wins gives him a clear advantage over many of his opponents because of his takedown skills and prowess on the mat.

Johnson, a former Junior College national champion out of Lassen College, takes a much different approach to mixed martial arts than the former Nittany Lion. While Davis relies on his speed and grappling technique, Johnson is a brawler who's best skill is his striking ability, with 12 of his 16 career UFC wins having come by either knockout or technical knockout.

On the other hand, Johnson has been susceptible to being forced into submission or "tapping-out" over his career, which happens to be one of the specialties of Davis. Having won four bouts by submission over the course of his career, Davis will have Johnson's three tap-out defeats in the back of his mind when the two square off.

"I think my skill set matches up well with his because he's not a well-rounded fighter so I'll make him look bad," Davis said. "My experience as a wrestler gives me a distinct advantage because I'll do what I want and he can't stop it."

A competitor by nature, the Harrisburg native will enter his match extra hungry, knowing that this victory could be the one that grants him an opportunity to fight for the light heavyweight title, which is currently held by Jon Jones.

As a proud alumnus of Penn State, Davis sees the athletic feats being accomplished by fellow Penn State graduates such as football players Michael Robinson and Jordan Hill winning the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks and Olympic rower Natalie Dell winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games and is motivated even more to become a UFC champion.

"Penn State has a history of greatness and if you look at every sport, we have stars everywhere," Davis said. "To win a (UFC) title would be no different than those accomplishments."

When he visited the school back in November and worked out in the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex, the 2008 national champion was struck by not only the talent but also the work ethic of head coach Cael Sanderson's squad.

Watching the Nittany Lions enter the final session of the 2014 NCAA Championships in a tight race with Minnesota for the team title, Davis had no doubt that they would win their fourth consecutive national championship.

"Winning four straight (titles) is pretty amazing but it's what I expect at this point," Davis said. "They're losing two of the best seniors in the country (Taylor and Ed Ruth) next season, and I still expect them to finish first. The intensity and the coaching in that wrestling room is like nothing else."

Davis laughed when asked if he spun the idea of fighting in the UFC to Taylor and Ruth when he met the fellow four-time All-Americans, but said that he sees the same fire in the two national champions that he has himself. 

If there is one thing that man nicknamed "Mr. Wonderful" learned from former coach Troy Sunderland when he competed at Penn State, it's that a great competitor can't be persuaded to do anything, they have to want to accomplish it all on their own.

That's the attitude that attracted Davis to wrestling, and it's the same attitude that he carries with him not just in the cage as a mixed martial artist, but in everything he does in life.

"You don't wrestle because your dad told you to, you do it because you love the sport, and if you don't want it I can't help you," Davis said. "The most beneficial thing I learned wrestling at Penn State is that if I want something done, I get it done myself. There's no passing and no timeouts in wrestling so you have to create your own opportunities. It's a lot like life."

How his bout with Johnson turns out and whether he gets a title shot remain undecided, but whatever happens, there is no doubt that Davis will continue to strive for his goals, both as a fighter and as a person.

English's Will Defines Penn State's Fourth Straight Title

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By Matt Allibone,, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State wrestling team celebrated its fourth-straight national championship Saturday night in Oklahoma City, the majority of the attention was focused on the two men who brought home individual titles for the team, David Taylor and Ed Ruth.

With Taylor having just earned his second undefeated season and individual national title, and Ruth having become the program's first three-time national championship, this certainly was no surprise. For the team however, there may have been no wrestler more valuable than the third senior in the Nittany Lion lineup, James English.

9862001.jpegEnglish has been at Penn State for six years, yet this past weekend was his first appearance at the NCAA Championships. He missed two entire season due to injury, had to pay his own tuition after being granted a sixth season of eligibility, and wasn't inserted as a starter until two weeks before the Big Ten tournament. 

None of that matters now. With an incredible performance in the NCAA Championships, English earned himself a seventh-place finish and All-American status, an outcome that seemed improbable a few months ago.

"I'm just glad I never stopped fighting and after six years I was finally able to make it here," English said. "This is what my goal was and it's great to be able to accomplish that."

Few athletes in any sport can claim to have gone through as much adversity as English has in his career. He sat out his entire freshman campaign, fought for two years to make the starting lineup, missed the 2011-'12 season following shoulder surgery, and then was relegated to backup duty for Andrew Alton last year.

Though the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility, few expected him to come back. Even head coach Cael Sanderson, long his biggest supporter, was surprised when English decided to return to the team.

"This is a kid who shouldn't wrestle. He's going to have neck and back problems his whole life," Sanderson said. "He came back for a sixth year and I wasn't sure why because he's always hurt."

Despite the doubts, English never considered not coming back to Penn State. Even having already earned his degree, he knew he had unfinished business.

Determined as he was, the setbacks just continued to come for the York, Pa., native, as nagging injuries once again limited him to just two early season dual meets, which he lost. With Alton set to return from his own shoulder injury and freshman Zack Beitz exceeding expectations, English seemed to be the odd man out.

"He probably didn't wrestle somebody live (in practice) all year outside of a coach," Sanderson said. "As the season went along, I had kind of written him off."

Nobody would have blamed him for throwing in the towel on his career, but English, the only wrestler on the team whose time at Penn State precedes Sanderson's tenure as coach, kept coming back for more.

After getting healthy enough to compete in open tournaments late in the regular season, English beat both Alton and Beitz in wrestle-offs to earn himself the postseason stating spot at 149.

A sixth-place finish at the Big Ten tournament earned English a bid in the NCAA tournament, where despite being unseeded, he managed to defeat 12th-ranked Dylan Cottrell of Appalachian State in the opening round.

When a hard fought 4-3 loss to eventual national champion Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) ended his dream of winning the tournament, English refused to hang his head, knowing his team needed him to produce points in the consolation rounds.

"You can't dwell on (losing) because it's not going to do you any good," English said. "I just had to make the best of any situation I had and keep fighting the whole time."

English continued to fight on, winning two straight against Christian Barber (North Carolina) and Ryan Lubeck (Wisconsin) before clinching All-American status with a huge 6-4 overtime victory over 10th-ranked Zach Niebert of Virginia Tech.

After falling to Edinboro's David Habat in the consolation quarterfinals, English saved his best performance for last, taking down 2013 national champion Kendric Maple of Oklahoma, 2-1, to finish in seventh, and more importantly, keep the Nittany Lions ahead in the team race over Minnesota.

"If there's one way to describe how I wrestled out there, it's just fight the whole way through," English said. "Cael told me after the match that I made him so proud and that means the world to me."

On a team filled with some of the biggest names in college wrestling, English entered his lone NCAA Championships appearance as Penn State's least notable wrestler and left it as one of the surprise stars of the weekend.

Taylor, who made sure to hug English as he exited the floor following his victory over Maple, couldn't have been happier for his teammate.

"When you talk about a guy who lives his life the right way and has had some very unfortunate things happen to him, James English is the first guy that comes to mind," Taylor said. "He works unbelievably hard, and now he's an All-American. That's pretty special."

English's accomplishments may not match those of Taylor and Ruth in terms of wins and accolades, but there is no doubt that his run to reach All-American status has secured him a place in Penn State history.

"It really is unbelievable," Sanderson said. "He gutted out some wins and that's bigger than wrestling and bigger than winning championships." 

Nittany Lions Claim Fourth-Straight NCAA Title

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VIDEO: Cael Sanderson National Championship Press Conference | Photo Gallery

VIDEO: Ed Ruth Press Conference | VIDEO: David Taylor Press Conference

Penn State's reign over the college wrestling world continued on Saturday night when the Nittany Lions captured their unprecedented fourth-straight NCAA team title.

Fueled by NCAA individual crowns from seniors Ed Ruth at 184 pounds and David Taylor at 165 pounds, the Lions celebrated on the sport's grandest stage inside Chesapeake Energy Arena as the 2014 national champions.

9850898.jpeg"Our kids really did a fantastic job today," head coach Cael Sanderson said.  "We had our hands full.  Minnesota was really killing it, so we needed a (strong finish).  All of our All-Americans won their last match.  That's a big deal."

By no means was the fourth title an easy one for the Nittany Lions, who edged Minnesota by 5.5 points in the final team standings.  Following a victory from Ruth at 184 pounds, the Lions pulled ahead of the Gophers by 1.5 points after two championship bouts.

Minnesota suffered setbacks in its two national title bouts, with the second coming in the ninth match of the evening.  As the 157-pound bout ticked to zero on the clock, the white-clad Penn State fans rose to their feet to celebrate the program's fifth national championship.

"It is satisfying now," Sanderson said.  "It was a long three days.  We are going to sleep well tonight...This was a tough tournament.  And this was a tough year."

But the work was not quite done for the Nittany Lions, as Taylor was on deck in the final championship match of night.

You could not have scripted a better way for Taylor's career to end in a Penn State singlet than the way it did on Saturday night.  The epitome of a team player, Taylor's imprint on the program goes far beyond his stellar accolades.  He didn't miss a match at the national tournament because he wanted to support his fellow teammates.  On Saturday morning, he did not need to be at the arena, but he was the first to greet fellow James English as he came off the mat after his win in the seventh-place match at 149 pounds.

Thanks to another dominant performance, Taylor finished off his collegiate career with a victory in the final match of the national tournament, an individual national title and a team title.  He couldn't wipe the smile off of his face.

"That's just stuff I dreamt about when I was a kid. And kind of sums it up tonight," said Taylor.  "Just having that opportunity to go out there and wrestle and wrestle for the best fans in the country and have the best coaches in my corner. It's just - I don't know, it's hard to say."

Watching Taylor and Ruth have their arm raised one final time for Penn State is something special for not just Nittany Lion fans, but the sport of wrestling.  The duo combined for five individual national titles, eight individual Big Ten titles, four team national titles, four Big Ten team titles and a cumulative record of 270-6.

"Anyone who has watched David Taylor or Ed Ruth becomes and instant wrestling fan," Sanderson said.  "Those guys are fun to watch.  They are in constant motion.  They are fluid.  They are tough.  They wrestle with passion.  And they wrestle with fire.  You need heroes and guys like that to build the sport."

Taylor and Ruth certainly played a paramount role in Penn State's fourth-straight title, but the Nittany Lions remain atop the NCAA wrestling mountain because of a hard-fought team effort in Oklahoma City.

Final Team Standings - (Champions/All-Americans)
1. Penn State - 109.5 (2 Champions / 7 All-Americans)
2. Minnesota - 104.0 (0 Champions / 7 All-Americans)
3. Oklahoma State - 96.5 (2 Champions / 5 All-Americans)
4. Iowa - 78.5 (1 Champion / 6 All-Americans)
5. Edinboro - 62.0 (0 Champions / 3 All-Americans)

National Championship Matches

184: #2 Ed Ruth (34-1) - 5-0 - NCAA Champion - All-American
In typical Ed Ruth fashion, the Nittany Lion senior wasted no time going to work against top-seeded Jimmy Sheptock from Maryland in the national title bout.  Ruth scored two quick takedowns to take a 4-1 lead into the second period.  In the top position during the second period, Ruth was dominant.  He rode out Sheptock for 3:30 of riding time after two frames.  He notched a reversal in the third and added the riding time point for a 7-2 victory.

"As soon as the guy steps on the line, I step on the line," Ruth said. "The first thing I'm thinking about is just taking 10, 20 shots. So I get to his legs, because in my head I don't like to believe that people can send me off. I'm taking shots, I like to believe I can always get to the leg, and that just keeps me pushing for the next shot, the next shot after that, and eventually hopefully I'll get him."

Ruth's long list of accomplishments includes four Big Ten titles, 136 career victories, four All-American honors and three NCAA titles.  Ruth finished third in his first trip to the national tournament.  Since the 2011 NCAA Championships, Ruth accumulated a 98-1 record in a Penn State singlet.  He will go down as one of the best in program history. 

"It's big, because there's a lot of respective wrestlers that came through Penn State," Ruth said.  "I see them every time they come in. I go like, Wow. Just makes me proud to be one of those guys."


165: #1 David Taylor (34-0) - 5-0 - NCAA Champion - All-American
Senior David Taylor's final bout in a Penn State singlet was on the stage that featured the highest of highs in his Nittany Lion career, and it was only fitting that he got to be the final wrestler with his hand raised in front of a capacity crowd on Saturday night.  Taylor notched a takedown and built more than two minutes of riding time in the first period.  He opened the second with an escape and a second takedown en route to a 5-0 lead after two.  From there, the Nittany Lion was not going to be denied in a dominant 6-0 performance to cap off an undefeated season.

"I was up there four times. I lost twice. And it's hard. Winning the national championship, you gotta be ready to really wrestle, and I think I just developed some skills over the last four years," Taylor said.  "You know, keep working. Had some experiences wrestling freestyle and getting some more patience with my offense and guys slowing me down.  And tonight was a big night where I had to really focus on riding Caldwell and getting weight forward because he was really intent to try and get up to his feet an getting escapes. So there were some things that I had to do a little different tonight than I have in the past.  So I just think I just matured a lot as a wrestler, as a person, and I just think a lot was just looking up to my coaches every day and having a guy like, obviously, Cael, who did what no one else could do."

Like Ruth, Taylor's list of accomplishments in Blue and White is far too long to do justice.  Head coach Cael Sanderson said it best after the national title when he remarked that when picking a team of the college wrestling's all-time greats, he would not leave David Taylor off of his squad.  Taylor is a rare talent in the sport.  That coupled with his undying team-first attitude makes the Ohio native a once in a generation student-athlete for the Penn State program.  He will finish as a two-time national champ, four-time Big Ten champ and a winner of 134 matches in his time at Penn State.  The results are nothing short of remarkable.

"I'm not a historian or anything like that, but I wouldn't take anybody else on my team in the history of college wrestling over David Taylor," Sanderson said.  "It's just the passion and the love and obviously the skill and everything that comes with him."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Cael Sanderson 2014 NCAA Championship Press Conference

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Watch head coach Cael Sanderson address the media after the Nittany Lions captured their fourth-straight national championship on Saturday.